Roma’s Stephen El Shaarawy kills Napoli’s title hopes, with his 91st-minute equaliser sealing the deal in the sides’ 1-1 draw at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Before the match, the stakes were incredibly high for both sides. Napoli needed to secure the win if they wanted any chance of beating both Inter Milan and AC Milan, who occupy second or third respectively, for the league title.
For Roma, it was all about securing a spot in the top four to ensure that they play Champions League football next season.
The penalty incident occurred early in the half, with Roger Ibanez shoving Hirving Lozano from behind. The referee did not initially react, but after VAR confirmed that their was contact on the ankle, the penalty was given.
Insigne was cool and calm when stepping up against Rui Patricio. The keeper went the right way, but the shot was incredibly precise, hitting the inside netting, and giving Napoli the lead.
After the early goal, Napoli looked comfortable on the ball, and were able to create a few chances through Victor Osimhen and Lozano. It wasn’t until late in the first half when Roma started to threaten goal.
Their best chance of the half came in the 38th minute, with Lorenzo Pellegrini going for goal from a free-kick situation. His shot was going on target, but a defensive header from Victor Osimhen meant that the ball hit the crossbar.
The second half was a bit more tense, with Napoli being a bit more cautious with the ball. As the minutes ticked on, this allowed the visitors to get a bit more comfortable, and set the pace of the game.
Their best opportunity to equalise came in the 61st minute. If Tammy Abraham had timed it right, his header from a few feet away would have put his side level.
At around the eightieth minute, Luciano Spalletti decided to take a much more cautious approach, taking off most of his attacking players, and subbing on some defensive reinforcements. This proved to backfire greatly, as it allowed Roma to create several attacking sequences. They finally broke through in the first minute of added time, with Abraham flicking the ball to a competely free El Shaarawy. The winger’s first touch strike rocketed right into the back of the net hushed all the cheers from the Napoli fans in the stadium, and had Jose Mourinho yelling “justice” from the touchline.
Napoli will head next to Empoli, and attempt to finish the season on a high while Roma will head to Inter, Mourinho’s former side, before facing off against Leicester City in the Europa Conference League.
TALKING POINT: SUBS CHANGED THE GAME
Luciano Spalletti will certainly regret his game management today. Despite Roma having chances in the second half, Napoli were consistently a threat due to Insigne and Victor Osimhen up top. Subbing them off for Dries Mertens and Juan Jesus, a defender, at the same time meant that Napoli were unable to retain the ball in the final third, and had no one op top to target. Going uber defensive while Jose Mourinho opted for Stephan El Shaarawy, Carles Perez, and the youngster, Felix Afena-Gyan meant that Roma could keep more of the ball, and create better chances against a disjointed Napoli side.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: HIRVING LOZANO
Lozano was consistently Napoli’s biggest offensive threat. He won the penalty that had his side up for a majority of the match, and was repeatedly able to get the better of Ibanez, Chris Smalling, and Nicola Zalewski. His movement also gave more space for Osimhen and Insigne to threaten Roma’s backline. He was on a yellow, so it made sense that he was subbed off in the 68th minute, but had he stayed on, Napoli may have been able to pick up all three points.
NAPOLI: Meret 8, Zanoli 7, Rrahmani 7, Koulibaly 8, Rui 7, Anguissa 7, Lobotka 7, Ruiz 7, Lozano 8, Osimhen 7, Insigne 7… Subs: Jesus 6, Zielinski 6, Elmas 6, Demme 6, Mertens 6.
ROMA: Patricio 7, Mancini 7, Smalling 7, Ibanez 5, Karsdorp 6, Oliveira 6, Cristante 6, Zalewski 7, Pellegrini 8, Zaniolo 6, Abraham 6… Subs: Mkhitaryan 7, Veretout 7, Afena-Gyan 6, Perez 7, El Shaarawy 8.
11’ – GOAL! NAPOLI 1-0 ROMA: After a lengthy VAR check, Insigne scores from the spot! Napoli get their early goal! Reminder, they need to win this match if they want any chance at the title.
38’ – ROMA FREE KICK IN DANGEROUS AREA: Just outside the box on the left, Pellegrini goes for goal, and the ball, off Osimhen’s head, hits the crossbar. So close for Roma!
61’ – GOLDEN CHANCE FOR ROMA: What a wasted opportunity for an equaliser. Roma’s best chance of the game so far!! Abraham can’t get a good header from Karsdop’s cross into the box. Could have been an easy header from a couple of feet away.
90+1’ – GOAL! NAPOLI 1-1 ROMA: Just after the ref announces that there would be eight minutes added on, Roma score an equaliser. Stephan El Shaarawy with a fantastic strike. The stadium is quiet as the Napoli fans cannot quite believe it. What a game, what a goal!!